When it comes to celebrations, apart from religious, of course, they all share one thing in common, alcohol and lots of it. For most people, celebrating anything from a New Year, birthday party, or just hanging out with friends involves drinking. It’s always all fun and games through the night, but when you wake up in the morning, you get that feeling. I’m talking about the fuzzy feeling, grumbling stomach, and that headache that takes forever to stop, and that marks the beginning of a search for a cure.
When solving a problem, you first need to understand the root of it. That brings us to a question, what causes hangovers? A simple answer here would be drinking too much alcohol, but many factors contribute to it, most of which have to do with alcohol.
What Causes Hangovers?
The presence of alcohol in your body causes the production of urine. You then urinate more than usual, thus leading to dehydration. Dehydration is often indicated by thirst, lightheadedness, and dizziness.
When your body is processing alcohol, the first by-product is acetaldehyde, which is estimated to be 10-30 times more toxic than alcohol itself. Acetaldehyde causes symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, skin flushing, and vomiting.
In the event of an infection, your body releases the hormone cytokines-a triggering protein. Excessive consumption of alcohol is also known to cause cytokines release. Cytokines trigger an inflammatory response and may lead to symptoms such as fatigue, muscle aches, headache, nausea, and cognitive effects such as memory loss and irritation.
Alcohol can inhibit glucose production in the body. It also depletes glucose reserves in the liver. Glucose is the primary source of energy for the brain. Low blood sugar causes symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, and mood disturbances. All of which are common during hangovers.
Methanol, yes, methanol! Although harmful when consumed in large quantities, it is not problematic in small amounts. Methanol is a by-product of the fermentation process and is present in most alcoholic drinks in small amounts. Though not harmful in small quantities, it can contribute to the severity of your hangover as it is metabolized into formaldehyde and formic acid, which are both toxic.
Other compounds present in alcohol are:
• Flavor additives
These may cause hangovers as they need to be broken down, too, thus slowing down the process. The severity of hangovers caused by these compounds depends on the amount of alcohol consumed as more compounds equal to more toxicity.
Does the color of alcohol contribute to the intensity of your hangover?
Some people find that darker drinks give them worse hangovers. Researchers believe this is a result of chemicals called congeners. Congeners are by-products of the fermentation process and are responsible for the dark color of alcohol. Dark alcoholic drinks contain more congeners than clear ones. The more distilled alcohol is the fewer congeners it contains.
Doctors don’t have all the answers to the effects of congeners. Still, one leading theory is that congeners compete with alcohol in the breaking down process, which then causes the drink and its by-products to linger longer in the body, thus contributing to hangover symptoms.
Congeners may also cause the body to release nor-epinephrine and epinephrine hormones. These hormones cause inflammatory responses in the body that lead to hangover symptoms.
Various cures for hangovers
There is no specific cure to a hangover, although certain remedies serve to ease the symptoms.
There is little research on the effectiveness of over-the-counter drugs on hangovers, but some help to curb the symptoms.
Aspirin and anti-inflammatories like naproxen and ibuprofen relieve aches and pains. They also reduce the inflammation caused by alcohol, thus relieving headaches and muscle aches.
Anti-inflammatories should be taken with care as they may irritate the stomach lining or cause ulcers if used without caution.
Antacids relieve an upset stomach by neutralizing stomach acid. Taking antacids while having a hangover can reduce heartburn, nausea, and indigestion caused by alcohol.
Drink plenty of water.
Alcohol is a diuretic hence increases the amount of urine someone passes. Excessive urination leads to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, which is a significant cause of hangovers. Rehydrating the body relieves hangover symptoms like headache and dizziness.
Pedialyte is a dehydration-fighting solution for children and adults. It is available over-the-counter (OTC). A Pedialyte is a solution of:
• Electrolytes (sodium, chloride, and potassium)
Electrolytes maintain water balance, PH, and nerve function.
Sports drinks contain water and are rich in electrolytes. They not only get you rehydrated but also minimize hangover symptoms. You should, however, be careful with the type of sports-drink you take as most contain caffeine-which like alcohol is a diuretic and would leave you even more dehydrated.
Sprite is also a remedy. Headaches and nausea often occur after excessive drinking. They are caused by enzyme dehydrogenase (ADH), which is broken down in the liver to produce acetaldehyde. Scientists claim that reducing the amount of time acetaldehyde is present in the body helps cure hangovers. Sprite speeds up the removal of ADH, thus decreasing its harmful effects on the body.
Alcohol is a diuretic, hence results in the loss of many vitamins and minerals through urine. The best tablet is B12 (cobalamine), as it performs a key role in brain and nervous system functioning.
An effervescent vitamin supplement is also helpful as it packs a hangover fighting punch. Though there isn’t much science proving its effectiveness, users swear to its benefits. Besides, a few extra vitamins in your body will do you right.
A good breakfast
Many people claim that an egg breakfast is a fast cure to hangovers, and there’s a science to prove it. Eggs contain cysteine, an amino acid that helps break down acetaldehyde. The eggs should be taken together with fruits and carbohydrates like toast to recover lost vitamins and raise blood sugar levels.
Eating also serves to relieve stomach upsets and that empty feeling in your guts while even replacing energy lost while drunk.
Get plenty of sleep.
Although small amounts of alcohol can help you sleep, consuming a lot of alcohol causes sleep disturbance and reduces the quality of sleep.
Hangover symptoms like fatigue, irritability, and headaches are worse when one has not gotten enough sleep. Getting enough sleep allows your body to recover and also helps to make the hangover more bearable.
The hair of the dog
Sounds funny, right? The hair of the dog is having a drink the next morning. Alcohol is known to have numbing characteristics hence cures headaches and muscle aches, thus curbing hangover symptoms.
During the metabolism of alcohol, methanol is converted to formaldehyde, which is a toxic compound responsible for some of your hangover symptoms. Drinking ethanol when you have a hangover prevents the conversion of methanol to formaldehyde; hence methanol is safely excreted from your body.
However, this method is not recommended as it can lead to dependence and doesn’t cure a hangover. It only postpones it.
The chemical compounds in ginger aid digestion and ease stomach upset, which is one symptom of hangovers. You can consume ginger by brewing it into tea or mixing it in a smoothie.
Chamomile helps calm emotionally overwhelming feelings that result from drinking alcohol. It also soothes anxiety and enables you to sleep better, thus making the hangover more bearable. Chamomile also relieves an upset stomach.
Take a long shower.
Freshening up does wonder for your mind. A hot shower could end up making you more nauseous, so we recommend taking a cold shower. Although this does not do much in relieving the symptoms, it leaves you fresh and can go about finding other cures with a little bit more ease.
Want a faster cure for your hangover? Then I suggest going to an IV clinic-they’ve become very popular these days. An IV drip contains almost all the things your body lost while you were drunk, from vitamins, water, and electrolytes. The fast effectiveness of IV drips is accredited to the fact that all these nutrients are injected straight into your blood; hence no absorption time is required as in consuming them orally.
Prevention is better than cure, and the same is true for hangovers. Wouldn’t you rather not get a hangover in the first place, even with numerous remedies for it? I know you just said yes, so I’m going to jump right into it.
There is a lot of research put into methods of curing hangovers, but few people consider what to do to prevent one. Some hangover cures also prevent you from getting one or at least lessening its severity, but other methods do that.
Just Avoid Alcohol (Easier said than done lol)
You cannot get a hangover if you are not drunk in the first place, which, by far, is the best and most effective preventive measure.
Drink water in between drinks.
The primary cause of hangovers is dehydration. So what if there’s a way around it? Lucky for you, there is. Drinking water in between drinks ensures your body has enough water. Even with the diuretic properties of alcohol, drinking more water than you urinate ensures you don’t get dehydrated, and your body’s metabolic functions are not interrupted.
Besides preventing a hangover the next day, drinking water while consuming alcohol ensures you don’t get drunk fast; hence you can enjoy partying without the risk of passing out or doing something you might regret in the morning.
Take multivitamin tablets.
Vitamins, most specifically B vitamins, help turn food into energy. Taking vitamins before your drink is also advisable as the number of vitamins in your body drops when you’re drunk; hence building up stock is a pretty smart move.
Have a greasy meal.
Eating a greasy meal with meat and carbohydrates with a few vitamins ensures that your body doesn’t get drained of vital nutrients when you’re drunk. Also, consuming alcohol on a full stomach limits its absorption rate; hence toxins are eliminated more efficiently because they don’t overwhelm the system.
Eating before and while drinking also prevents you from becoming drunk too fast because, as I said, it limits alcohol absorption into your body.
Avoid dark-colored drinks.
As discussed earlier, dark drinks like brandy and red wine have a lot of congeners. Transparent and highly distilled liquors have fewer congeners hence result in less severe hangovers.
Dance and pace yourself while drinking.
Dancing and moving around ensures you drink less because you can only do one thing at a time. It also makes you drink slower hence slower alcohol absorption, which then prevents and minimizes the severity of a hangover the next day.
Avoid smoking while drinking.
Cigarettes and alcohol are both sleep inhibitors, so if you want to get fully rested, you should avoid combining the two. Not getting enough sleep results in more fatigue and severe hangovers; hence you should make sure you get adequately rested, even if it means abstaining from certain pleasures like smoking.
Drink in moderation.
Whether or not you’re going to get a hangover depends on the amount of alcohol you drink. No guideline as to how much alcohol you are supposed to consume as tolerance varies from person to person.
Avoid medication that causes adverse effects with alcohol.
When mixed, alcohol and certain medicines have harmful interactions. Alcohol can either increase the effectiveness of a drug or render it useless. In a case where it increases the effect and potency of the drug in the body, it may lead to hangover-like side effects such as drowsiness, sleepiness, and lightheadedness.
Certain drugs may also result in temporary cognitive problems and memory loss. All medications that cause adverse effects with alcohol are labeled and should always be avoided while drinking.
Drink water before going to sleep.
Drinking water before going to sleep ensures that you sleep with your body hydrated hence minimizing the risk of a hangover, and if you do get one, it’s not as severe as what it could have been.
Hangovers have baffled humans for over 10,000 years now. Remedies keep being invented day after day and differ from place to place. Alcohol abstinence is the most effective way to prevent a hangover, but if you can’t do that, then we recommend following the tips above on how to prevent and cure hangovers. Be sure to check out more health related articles at Healthy Body Healthy Mind.